Alabama lawmaker proposing hands-free cellphone law for drivers

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Neighboring states often take inspiration from each other for new laws, which could be why people here in Alabama got so stirred up when they heard about the hands-free law in Georgia. A similar law could be passed in Alabama if one lawmaker has their way.

The new law went into effect July, 1st for the whole state of Georgia. It makes it illegal for drivers to even hold their phone, GPS, tablet, or any device while driving. Supporting your device on your shoulder or your lap is also a no go.

While it may seem inconvenient, law enforcement officers say it keeps people from risking lives on the road.

"We've had situations to where people are looking at their phone, roll forward and strike a vehicle in the rear, or roll forward into an intersection and cause a major accident. We have actually seen it to where they have sat through a complete cycle of lights and been texting on their phone or looking at their phone," Sgt. Chris Anderson from the Columbus Police Department Motor Squad said.

Authorities suggest you have a plan if you need to legally talk on the phone. Talking on speakerphone, through an earphone or using a headset are all ways you can talk without posing a risk to others.

Alabama Representative Allen Farley wants to bring a bill to the legislature this year that would ban people from holding their cell phone while they drive.

Just ask people who live in Huntsville they'll tell you how often they see people using their phone when they drive.

"I drive down South Parkway all the time. I live on the south side of Huntsville and you kind of daily see someone that's hitting the edge of the lane and you get up next to them and they've got their phone in their hand steering wheel in the other," Huntsville resident Cory Bellamy said.

Farley wants to bring a bill to the legislature that would stop this. He is sponsoring the bill HB6 that would prohibit drivers from holding their phone while they drive.

"It's not called a no texting law, or a no emailing law, it's called a distracted driving law," said Allen Farley, (R) District 15.

The first offense will carry a $50 fine. A violation will rack up points on people's license. Farley says the first offense is two points after that it goes to three points. Many driving violations, such as speeding carry a similar penalty. A person's license can be suspended if they receive 12-14 points against their license during a certain period of time.

"Personally, I am in favor of it," HEMSI community relations officer, Don Webster, said.

Emergency responders say they think the bill is a good idea.

"Distracted driving causes a lot of accidents. Not necessarily accidents with injuries, but a lot of accidents," Webster said.

And police say a law like HB6 would be easier to enforce that current cell phone laws.

"From a law enforcement perspective, it's a lot easier for officers to enforce that simply seeing the device in someone's hand versus actually using the device," Lt. Michael Johnson with the Huntsville Police said.

Farley says a 17-year old girl in Alabama died in a crash this year that was the result of a driver texting and driving. She went to the same high school as his grandkids. Farley says this crash is what compelled him to draft this legislation.

Farley has provided a copy of his bill of law enforcement agencies across the state. He is asking for their input on it as he waits to bring this to the legislature in March.

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